Sander A. Rikleen quoted in Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly on the SJC producing less opinions than in pre-pandemic years

February 5, 2024

Sander A. Rikleen, partner in the firm’s Litigation Department, was quoted in the February 5th issue of Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly. The article, “SJC case data show pandemic effect, but possibly some philosophical choices, too,” discusses how the Supreme Judicial Court and the Appeals Court have both produced fewer opinions since the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read the full article from Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly (subscriber content).

 From the article:

Boston business litigator Sander A. Rikleen has been updating a database of judicial appointments for 20-plus years and has written a pair of articles for the Boston Bar Journal about the SJC’s workload.

Rikleen said he will periodically have clients who have appellate issues for which he recommends seeking direct appellate review from the SJC, either because the issue is novel or they are trying to reverse old case law.

“The Appeals Court is not likely to set out on virgin snow,” Rikleen said.

While appreciating the importance of the SJC focusing on tackling those novel or thorny issues, Rikleen hinted that he would not mind seeing the court more eager to accept cases that would otherwise go to the Appeals Court. That is particularly true when the chances of getting further appellate review from the SJC after the Appeals Court has ruled is “miniscule,” Rikleen noted, with the SJC granting further appellate review only in 2 to 3 percent of cases annually.

Rikleen said he has observed several Appeals Court arguments recently and, without fail, the judges are very well prepared, asking questions that indicate they have grappled with the arguments raised in the parties’ briefs.

Nonetheless, Rikleen said the sense that he has gotten from Appeals Court judges is that they are “very concerned about throughput.” For a while, summary dispositions have outnumbered published opinions by a ratio of 5 or 6 to 1in a typical year.

“The amount of time judges devote to each case at the Appeals Court seems to be light,” he said.